What is there not to like about football?
Seriously, what isn’t there to like about two teams of helmeted millionaires with hyper-active thyroids battling it out in four-second spurts of action that end in violent crashes of bodies ensconced in thick padding on a vast carpet of grass with stripes and hashmarks while people dressed in striped-shirts blow whistles and throw little yellow flags? Those four seconds are then followed by several minutes of standing around while the players make sure that there are only eleven of them on each side and decide what to do next as we, the viewing public, are bombarded with slick advertising for products that promise eternal youth, a luxury off-road experience, or an alcohol addiction.
I have no idea what the live audience does during commercial breaks. My guess is they alternate trips between the beer lines and the bathroom lines.
While it might surprise some of you, those who know me well know me as football fanatic—as rah-rah, shish-boo-bah kind of fan as one could ever find, for exactly two games each year. The first game occurred this season on a Thursday, September 5, when the NFL kicked off its year with the Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers and losing 10-3. At least the Cubs won that day, defeating the Milwaukee Brewers 10-5.
Winning is something of a rarity in Chicago, so when the Bears lose their home opener there is nothing left to do but watch baseball until that season ends. That’s when I fall into a winter-long depression, clinically known as getalifeitis, that has me counting down the days on a concrete wall with a piece of charcoal to mark the passage of time before Spring Training begins. (Cubs pitchers and catchers report in just nine—count ‘em—nine days!)
The second day on which I exhibit my unbridled enthusiasm for football is today—Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a tradition I’m proud to share with 83% of the world’s population who own televisions and aren’t interested in movies with subtitles, plus those with an extra 30-grand or so to buy tickets to the actual event, which proves that either you don’t have to be smart to be rich or that you’ve never smelled the inside of a stadium bathroom.
This year is the fifty-fourth time two teams will meet for the NFL Championship. All that’s at stake (other than a modicum of immortality and an increased likelihood of brain trauma) is the Lombardi Trophy, a sterling silver replica of a football—how friggin’ original is that?—named for a coach who actually won the first one and is most remembered for having said, “Winning isn’t the only thing,” before being interrupted by Yogi Berra saying, “Nobody goes there anymore.”
And it was a that moment in sports history when Al Michaels insulted what was left of Cleveland by saying it was “like Detroit without the glitter.”
Actually, it should be noted that each player on the winning team receives ownership of a mid-sized bank, while the losers are each given a used, Soviet-era Yugo (slogan: Yugo, the car won’t).
I trace my interest in football to a previous life in which I owned a Corporate Skybox at the Colosseum, better known in those days as the Flavian Amphitheatre or, as the Romans called it, The Flav. Built between 70 and 80 A.D., the oval structure was built by Vespasian, for whom a motor scooter would one day be named, with financing provided by his son, Titus, who was in the protection rackets. This was publicly financed by Titus’s men stealing the needed money from the public. When you have a loyal army, you really don’t need to float bond issues.
Although they didn’t play football or even futbol in ancient Rome, they did have several games that were lots of fun for the spectators who clamored for any of the 50,000 general admission seats on Sunday afternoons, rain or shine. Reserved seating (30,000 seats) was available through StubHub, but the lines at Will Call were unbelievably long.
When I occasionally channel that long ago past life, I remember enjoying the Gladiators the most. Some of them rode horses and had long spears, and they charged one another—each trying to turn the other into a shish kebab. Others had spiked iron balls at the ends of chains that they swung around and let loose, often killing spectators in the field level box seats that featured beer vendors selling imported Egyptian micro brews in souvenir clay mugs.
The chariot races were pretty cool, but there were too many sponsor logos on the chariots, not enough crashes, and Charlton Heston’s winning record suggested that the races were rigged.
Everybody’s favorite sport for the better part of four centuries was when Christians would be thrown to hungry lions as a test of faith. The lions always won. Always.
Why, after all of that, Rome became a Christian state is anybody’s guess.
Since I’ve now segued to the subject of food, it should be noted that guacamole was the most popular snack food at The Flav, followed by chipotle dove wings, Dodger dogs and moo shu pork-on-a-stick. Because Frito-Lay had yet to emerge as a major player in the world of junk food, “gwak,” as it was called, was served with matzoh crackers. These tasteless pieces of rutted cardboard were left over from 40 years of Jews baking in the “wilderness” where there was no yeast and few Chinese restaurants.
Left to their own devices, the nomadic-but-not-by-choice-nomadic Israelites lived on quail, which they grilled on portable hibachis and served with a delicate sauce of shallots and figs, and manna, which was a boxed dessert that came in four flavors—carob, vanilla, anchovy, and hemlock.
Back in the day, avocados were usually in plentiful supply, even without imports from Mexico. They were cheap and anybody who fooled around with the Roman State recipe was thrown to the lions. If one added mayonnaise, peas or broccoli to the guac, they were forced to eat it before being staked on a hill of fire ants two hours before the lions were let out.
Guacamole is the number #1 dip at Super Bowl parties around the world (except in Uganda) so rather than costing $1.85 per seed pod, the week before Super Bowl the prices usually balloon to around $17, unless you shop at Whole Foods where avocados usually cost $17. (Recent studies have shown that patrons of Whole Foods generally don’t like football and are therefore ready to bore you to tears talking about FIFA soccer—the very model of corruption for 51% of the U.S. Senate.)
This phenomena—known as price-gouging—is an economic principle known as, well, price-gouging. There are those who might find this practice to be the result of American ingenuity. It’s not. It’s the product of greed. If there is an increased demand, the prices tend to unfairly skyrocket. This is seen at disasters when bottled water suddenly costs $35 a case; at Valentine’s Day when the price of a dozen red roses is equal to a season lift-ticket at Aspen; and during Derby Week in Louisville, where a single room at a flea-bag motel is a mere $750 a night, but has free WiFi.
Only at Thanksgiving, when the market price of a turkey drops from $1.79 a pound to free, does this model not work. Even Alan Greenspan didn’t have an answer, which may or may not have had something to do with his exit from the Federal Reserve in 2006. (I tend to go with the theory that he just wanted more time to play clarinet duets with Woody Allen.)
At Whole Foods, turkeys cost in the neighborhood of $11 a pound because their turkeys are not only organic, but they were raised listening to Mozart and Liszt, and having their wattles massaged by unemployed PETA freaks. (Recent studies have shown that patrons of Whole Foods generally don’t like Thanksgiving either, and are therefore ready to bore you to tears talking about Unitarianism, a faux religion for aging hippies.)
This year’s Super Bowl promises a game that will take 50 percent more time to complete than a regular season game. That’s because Fox charges somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars per minute for commercials and Rupert needs the cash. Also, nobody’s been able to make Joe Buck stop blathering about God-only-knows-what he’s always blathering about. There will be a half-time show that will be closely watched by those hoping for wardrobe malfunctions.
Personally, I’m looking forward to eating a boatload of chili, bratwurst, beef sliders, pulled pork, ribs, meatballs, clam chowder, shrimps, fish tacos and wings.
Now I just have to convince Geri that a vegetable tray without Lit’l Smokies is just a vegetable tray.
Photography by Courtney A. Liska
as told to Pliny the Elder
3 ripe avocados
1/2 small onion, minced
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 Tbs. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh lime, juiced
1/2 tsp sea salt
Slice the avocados in half, remove the pit and skin and place in a mixing bowl.
Mash the avocado with a fork and make it as chunky or smooth as you’d like.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Chill.